Do you feel bullied? Or would you like to help someone who feels bullied?

Problems and conflicts can arise in any working environment. It is important to address these situations and find lasting solutions. In a conflict situation, it is helpful to get support at an early stage to make sure that things do not escalate. It is often not clear whether bullying is taking place. There is no uniform, internationally accepted definition of bullying. The following article should  help the employees of the MPG to assess whether bullying is taking place and whom they can contact in such a situation.

What is bullying?

Bullying refers to repeated and persistent negative actions directed against one or more persons and which create a hostile working atmosphere. In a bullying situation, those concerned have difficulty defending themselves.

A distinction should be made between bullying and isolated incidents of non-permanent misconduct by colleagues or superiors. Not every behavioural flaw falls under misconduct (see Conflicts and non-scientific misconduct). However, it is also important to address individual behavioural flaws and conflicts and to resolve them in a sustainable manner so that no systematic misconduct can develop from them.

It must be assessed on a case-by-case basis whether bullying is taking place. Bullying is a form of persistent, uncooperative behaviour by individuals or groups. It is considered social misconduct.

Examples of uncooperative behaviour:

  • An employee is humiliated or ridiculed in the workplace.
  • Insulting remarks are made about the employee, their views, or their private life.
  • An employee is yelled at or becomes the target of spontaneous annoyance.
  • The opinions of an employee are ignored.
  • An employee is assigned an unmanageable workload. An employee receives work orders with unreasonable deadlines.
  • Someone withholds information that is relevant to job performance.
  • An employee becomes the subject of gossip, and rumours are spread.
  • An employee is ignored or excluded.
  • Intimidating behaviour (e.g. pointing a finger at someone, getting too close, intentionally bumping into someone, blocking the way).
  • Indications or signals from others that an employee should resign.
  • Repeated, inappropriate reminders of mistakes and oversights.
  • An employee is ignored or rejected when they turn to someone for help.
  • Constant, unjustified criticism of mistakes and oversights.
  • Others play tricks on an employee.
  • Unfair accusations are brought against an employee.
  • Excessive control of the employee’s work.
  • An employee is pressured to not take advantage of things to which they are legally entitled (e.g. sick leave, holidays, and parental leave).
  • An employee is subjected to excessive teasing and sarcasm.
  • Threats that the contract will not be renewed if unreasonable requirements are not met.

What do I do in the case of bullying? Who can I turn to? How can I report suspected bullying?

If you suspect that you are being bullied or would like to help another person who is being bullied, there are several options:​

  • Speak with your superiors about this.
  • If you believe that your superior is involved in bullying, contact the local counselling and reporting units at your Institute.
  • If, for any reason, you do not wish to do so, please contact the central reporting unit of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Information on the central reporting units can be found under “Conflicts and non-scientific misconduct”.
  • Your Institute or facility may have a works agreement or other regulations on social behaviour. This regulates the procedure in cases of uncooperative behaviour. If you are not sure whether your Institute or facility has such a works agreement or other arrangement, ask your Works Council and/or Head of Administration.
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